Photo credit : Ailsa Watson
For National Poetry Day
I wrote this free-form poem (with minor alterations) at the start of this year. It was a contribution to the Sustaining Life as a Creative Programme, run by the wonderful Creative Learning team in Aberdeen, which I was very fortunate to take part in.
The brief was to describe our creative journey.
I am the small pigtailed girl
Perched on the window seat, with
sugar paper and poster paints,
brush and water pot,
the wooden trolley
I am that girl in shorts and tee-shirt
on the west coast shore
searching for crabs every summer
before rockpooling was a thing
collecting shells and pebbles,
sticks and stones
I am the girl playing in the
corrugated iron shed behind
my granny’s house
wildflowers in a jam jar on the rickety table -
the hedgehog visiting -
imagination my best friend
I’m the schoolgirl sailing on the loch
with my first love
I'm the teenager climbing hills with friends
gazing over Scotland -
hills and heather
burns and boulders,
I am the student, drawing in my lab book,
Learning the nature of science
I am the scientist, fishing for facts about
Trout and mackerel and herring,
I am the translator, editor, creator,
putter-together of research volumes,
organiser of conferences and treasurer of troves
I am the mum with no clue -
doing, not making,
(except soup and cakes and occasionally marmalade)
with a head crammed full, jammed full
a scarcity of time to call mine
I am the thirty-something friend,
persuaded to trade
My violin for a fiddle,
To play tunes with people
Who would become pals
To add another dimension
I am the mandolin-playing ceilidh band member,
calling out dance steps
- Oh, the feeling of power!
I am the teacher of students,
The organiser of labs and lectures,
Marker of essays,
Developer of screen-based things
With no song to sing
Or dance to bring
I am the escapee,
Fleeing to evening classes -
Some shaky pots, a few pale paintings,
My sketchbook brought along
On family holidays
For rare moments of
I am the e-learning adviser,
Brain addled by screens,
Quitting the squeaky lino floors
Before it was too late
I am the pupil once more, online
And for real,
(because I respond well to being
I am the walker,
Walking with purpose -
In three years.
And Ben Nevis
No hesitation –
I am the delivery driver,
Dropping off veg
I am the spinner of stories
Weaver of yarns
I am the open studios partaker
Opening the door to my shed,
Pretending it is a studio,
letting people in to my life
To ask me questions
Which I find hard to answer –
When, What, Why, How?
It seems that some
Wish they had my life, whatever they
May think that is – living the dream –
An endless stream of ideas, most of which
Get washed away in the shower -
Down the drain, never to be
I am the artist, maker,
Creator of things
Which bring joy
I am the West coast
Still walking the tideline
In search of shells and pebbles,
Bleached bones of wood
Filling my pockets
Again and again
Still looking out to sea
I hope this finds you well and that you have enjoyed the summer - it definitely feels as if we are moving into autumn now.
I am happy to be taking part in North East Open Studios again this year - at the same venue as last year - the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee in Bieldside, Aberdeen. There will be nine of us showing a lovely range of work - from furniture to textiles, fused glass to painting, mixed media and printmaking. We call ourselves Art at the Phoenix for this event. I am number 302 in the NEOS book.
I have continued with The Shipping Forecast series of paintings and will have more of these on show, as well as small mounted works, mugs, coasters and of course greetings cards and 2020 calendars. There will be updates on my Pebbles on the Beach Facebook page throughout NEOS.
Opening Times -
I look forward to seeing you there!
"Occasional Rain" - original watercolour
You are invited to my Solo Exhibition : 4-29 June at the Acorn Gallery in the Acorn Centre in Inverurie.
The exhibition is open during cafe opening hours, so you can enjoy
coffee and cake, or a light lunch during your visit!
Open Tuesday - Thursday 10am - 3pm, Friday & Saturday, 10am - 4pm.
The Acorn Centre is within Inverurie West Parish Church, on
West High Street, Inverurie, AB51 3SA
"Fair, moderate or good".
The main focus of the show is a collection of new "Shipping Forecast" paintings, continuing with the theme I started last year during North East Open Studios. This is a series of seascapes of various sizes, all with titles based on phrases from the the well known and loved Shipping Forecast, broadcast every day on Radio 4. There will also be a few paintings of Bennachie on show.
I hope you enjoy the exhibition!
"Falling more slowly" "Occasionally high later"
"Good, occasionally poor" 80cm x 22cm approx.
February already! I hope this finds you settling in to 2019 and keeping warm in the recent wintry spell of weather.
This year I have taken the plunge and signed up for "Dream Plan Do", a scheme run by the Design Trust to help artists and makers (all creatives in fact) make a success of their business. It centres around a journal/workbook which asks lots of questions; some easy to answer (not many!), some more difficult and some downright scary! There is also a Facebook group, where we can compare notes, organise to meet face to face and agree that we need to reduce the amount of time we spend on social media... So far, it has certainly made me think about what I am doing and why, and where I am heading. There may be some changes ahead, but all good ones, I hope. I will keep you posted.
In the meantime, here are some exhibition dates for your diary - quite a long way ahead, but I guess it's good to be thinking about warm days ahead while we are still in February!
I will be taking some work over to the west coast to be part of the new "The Living Land Sea Sky" exhibition at the Loch Torridon Centre, which will be on from 14th May - 31st August. Current (winter) opening hours are 11-3, Mon, Wed & Fri. Easter to October, open 10-4, Monday - Saturday.
Delighted to say I'll be having a solo exhibition at the Acorn Centre in Inverurie. This will run from Monday 3rd June - Sat 29th June. Opening hours to be confirmed nearer the time.
Next up is the annual Milltimber, Bieldside & Cults Festival Art Exhibition, which runs this year from 22-25 August (Thurs - Sun). At the Phoenix Centre, Newton Dee, Bieldside, in Aberdeen.
And last but by no means least, I'm delighted to say that I will be showing my work as part of Art at the Phoenix at Newton Dee, for this year's North East Open Studios (NEOS).The dates for this year's event are Sat 14 - Mon 23 September. There will be ten artists and makers at the venue this time.
As you probably know, I produced some more "Shipping Forecast" paintings back in October - now it's time to get them framed and ready to go out into the world! Images above and below show a couple of them.
"Fair. Moderate or Good." 98cm x 24cm approx.
Christmas cards now available!
This year's Christmas cards were designed during a break on the west coast. The colours were influenced by what I had in my palette while painting some more of my Shipping Forecast series of paintings. In fact, I used what was there, so have ended up with less-than-traditional hues in the new cards! I was also inspired by collecting ferns and berries on my daily woodland walk, to construct a little "Christmas tree" photo design. Cards are now available to purchase from my website and from some of my local stockists.
Next year's calendar features some of my most recent paintings in The Shipping Forecast series. As in previous years, it's a slimline calendar with the back of each image printed so you can send it as a postcard. They are now available to purchase in my website shop, and also from some local stockists.
Delighted to say I have some original work in two exhibitions which are opening soon. The first is in Aberdeen, at Submit, organised by Peacock Visual Arts. The venue is W OR M in The Castlegate. Open 4th December - 19th January 2019. 10-5 daily until 23 Dec, then 10-5 daily 8th-19th Jan. All work is unframed. Below is one of the paintings I will have on show. ("Orange & Blue" - still life).
The second exhibition is on at the Moray Art Centre in Findhorn. It's on from 27th November until 3rd February 2019. Opening times - 10-5 daily Tues - Fri, 12-5 at weekends. "Storm 5 or 6" shown below, right, is one of two paintings I have in this show.
Many thanks for your continued interest
and all very best wishes for the festive season.
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to come and visit the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee during North East Open Studios last month (October already, how did that happen?!). It is always lovely to catch up with old friends and to meet new folk. Many interesting conversations were had, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback about my new work was very much appreciated. It turns out that lots of you are very fond of the colour blue!
I often find myself listening more than talking, during NEOS, which suits me fine as I am more naturally a listener than a talker. And so it was that I came away enriched by Shipping Forecast related stories; the lady who had the "Sailing By" tune played at her seafaring father's funeral, the friend who came to hate geography lessons at school, because they were made to transcribe the shipping forecast as it was broadcast, and she could never keep up. Another visitor who lamented listening to the midnight broadcast, as it meant that, once again, she could not sleep.
There were other stories too - an older gentleman who had been a cabin boy on a boat which sailed up and down the west coast of Scotland in the 1960's, who recognised the view of the Torridon mountains from Gairloch, in one of my paintings. He told me what his weekly wages were, and that beer in those days was 6d a pint (not that he was drinking it at 16, of course...). I love this sparking of memories which my work can produce; that recognition of a place, or a time, or a feeling. To me, that's one of the best parts of NEOS.
A word that I heard many time during the week about my Shipping Forecast series of paintings was "atmospheric". I'll take that, thank you.
Many thanks again to all who came to visit; your interest and support is greatly appreciated.
In the meantime, if you would like to get hold of my cards or other items, please see my Stockists page for where you can find them. Some items are also available from my online Shop here on my website.
This will be my eighth year taking part in NEOS (North East Open Studios). I'm number 269 in the book this year and will be at the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee in Bieldside in Aberdeen again. Eleven artists and makers will show their work there; we call ourselves "Art at the Phoenix". There will be a lovely mix of paintings, mixed media work, textiles, ceramics, fused glass, wooden furniture and more. Delighted to be part of it again - also thrilled that my daughter, Ailsa (number 268 in the book) is showing her textiles and illustration work at the same venue. Looking forward to welcoming visitors!
We will be open daily 10am - 4pm, from Saturday 8th - Sunday 16th September.
I will have some new work on show - a series of paintings with titles such as "Rising Slowly" and "Backing Southwesterly", based on The Shipping Forecast - the weather programme on Radio 4. They are mostly sea and skyscapes, inspired by the coast and ever changing light on the west coast of Scotland.
I've also been experimenting with lino printing and collage this year, and will have some of this work on display as well.
I have continued to do watercolour sketches throughout the year, so will have some new card designs available. Look forward to seeing you soon!
It's that time of year again, somehow. The annual MBC (Milltimber. Bieldside and Cults) Festival is about to start (and it is raining, sadly). The Art Exhibition has become a fixture in this event, with the opening marking the start of the festival each year. It includes work by local artists, or those who work or attend classes in the area. I'm exhibiting again this year, with half a dozen paintings on show, including some new work. I also have some limited edition prints available, as well as a small selection of greetings cards.
New for this year, we have two tables of "CD artwork" - original pieces all donated by the artists, CD case-sized - for sale at the bargain price of £5 each! The money raised will be used to help fund the exhibition for following years, as it has made a loss in recent times. There are some lovely works available - as well as a great range of framed art on the walls, of course!
So, lots of see and enjoy - a great range of framed work, also a large selection of mounted pieces, both originals and prints, as well as greetings cards and also some beautiful pieces of turned wood. Not forgetting teas, coffees and cakes at the weekend!
Hope to see you there.
I recently took part in the Art Fair which was part of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy. The weather was fantastic all weekend, hot and sunny, which made for a great time down at the harbour for all the boat-related events. Inspired by the boating theme, I developed some new pieces of work, using mixed media for a change from my usual watercolours. This year I have been keen to recycle old work; repurposing, upcycling, whatever you like to call it. Not using new materials, wherever possible. So I gathered some paintings which I felt hadn't "worked" - or did not stand alone - bright acrylics and some small watercolour studies. Added to the materials pile were an old book of sheet music (classical music, as it happens), sheets torn from magazines and also the coloured nets which I've bought fruit in (mainly oranges). Last but not least, I cut out some of my little lino-print boats, some of which had been printed on watercolour studies. I simply gathered what I had to hand.
And then the fun began; it took longer than I thought to find pleasing compositions. Perhaps they are not even that. Patterns, shapes, colours which complement each other. Little pictures. I am calling the series "Songs from the Sea" as they reflect my love of the sea and all things marine, including boats, and also my love of music, both listening to it and playing it. Each composition has a little fragment of sheet music within it. The first six works will be on show during North East Open Studios (NEOS) in September (8th - 16th) - I am exhibiting at the Phoenix Centre at Newton Dee again this year. In the meantime, they are also available for sale here on my website.
I have wanted to attend Feis Rois for a long time. When I first took up my fiddle again, about twenty years ago, my two children were quite small and I didn't feel I could escape for a whole long weekend to myself. Goodness knows why - I must have been a bit mad. The years passed, I wondered about going but never got organised. Then, around New Year time this year, an old school friend got in touch. She picked up her fiddle again last year; hers had collected more dust than mine, although perhaps that has made her even more determined to play again. "Let's go to the Feis!" she said. I didn't need to be asked twice. We were best friends right through school, from Primary 6 to sixth year. Competing in class, spurring each other on to study hard and, oh yes, sitting beside each other in the second violins in the school orchestra.
So, on Friday 4th May we travelled to Ullapool (by road, not ferry, contrary to appearances from the photo above), booked into our lovely B&B with views out over the sea towards the Summer Isles, and headed to the High School to register for the Feis. To describe the Feis, I am borrowing some words from their website - "a weekend bursting with music, song and dance and a stellar team of tutors to inspire participants of all levels". And that is exactly what it was, and more. Although I've been playing fiddle and, more recently, mandolin on and off for twenty years, I chose to attend a beginners' harp class. I went to this every morning. It was wonderful. There were only six of us in the class; all keen to learn and loving every minute of the new experience. Rachel Newton was our tutor - she was so patient, kind and full of laughter. And a great teacher! "Thumbs up, fingers down" became our mantra. The time flew by; we learnt a tune by ear, and the beginnings of a second one. Several of the class asked where they might acquire a clarsach so they could carry on....
Afternoons were spent doing group work under the expert tutoring of Lauren MacColl, along with Mairearad Green and Signy Jakobsdottir. I played my fiddle. We had a chance to play some of the music from The Seer, a new composition by Lauren, commissioned by Feis Rois. I learnt a lot, including the fact that a tenor horn sounds great in traditional music, 3 x 4 = 12 (I did know that, but this involved drumsticks and chair backs) and that an accordion can make a sound like waves on the shore.
It wasn't all about the music. Mostly it was, to be fair. But sustenance was required. Coffee breaks in the morning were a highlight, with volunteers serving endless cheerful mugs of tea and coffee, and fabulous, substantial homebakes seeing us through until lunchtime. The whole weekend was marvellous; there was a concert with The Shee and The Seer on the Saturday evening and a tutors' concert the following one. There were sessions in the pubs all through the town, which went on into the small hours. Tunes were shared, songs sung and I left feeling replenished, refreshed and inspired. The icing on the cake for me, however, was succeeding in encouraging (not single-handedly, I admit) a reluctant joiner-in to do so. The look of glee on his face after just one workshop was a joy to behold. That, for me, is what playing music together should be all about. A fun and enjoyable experience, shared with others.
I'm looking forward to next year already!